Holy shit! I can’t believe it's only a month before Thanksgiving! Time is flying! Then Christmas will be here before we know it. However, I think it is safe to say we are all excited to get 2020 over and behind us.
For me personally, it has been a crazy couple weeks with design appointments, interviews for my new designer position, homeschooling 4 kids, and I still have several more weeks of design appointments before I can get excited about taking a few days to relax and spend time with family and close friends.
I'm thinking about hosting holidays at our home this year, so I wanted to spend my day today making my home cozy and beautiful. It's snowing today, so there's no reason for me to go outside, nor do I want to. You may be wondering why would I care about how my house looks and feels a month before the holiday season officially begins. If there is one thing I have learned from COVID, it is I DO have a little more time to plan things, where as before it would have been a very different scene….. most likely where I spend the whole day of, running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to find just the right napkins, plates, name tags, flowers, etc. for the perfect holiday dinner. The day would then conclude with me frantically screeching into the driveway, unloading bags of “stuff” I don’t need, feeling incredibly stressed and probably picking a fight with my husband because he is sitting on the couch with his feet up doing exactly what the holidays are all about… relaxing and enjoying himself!
Over the years I have had to learn about the “art” of being not only a happy host, but also a happy guest at my own party.
Something else I've learned from COVID is how quickly the things we once took for granted were taken away...quickly. No more birthday parties, weddings were cancelled, vacations (not us) cancelled, dinner parties and date nights forbidden, the list goes on and on. Once we were "allowed" to have those moments back (with limitations), I realized a great occasion is really about presence. Even if we’re surrounded by the very best and beautiful things, we can’t enjoy them if we don’t have the presence of mind to truly be in the moment.
Whether you are going to be the host or a guest the year (because WE WILL NOT LET THEM CANCEL OUR HOLIDAYS), the most important element for a Happy Holiday gathering is your presence, more so this year than any.
When we are present (instead of perfect), we have such a greater chance at enjoying everyone around us, dancing with unexpected twists ’n turns, and most importantly being grateful for what we have.
With all that being said though….
There are many tangible things we actually CAN do to help ourselves be more centered and grounded this holiday season.
Below are some of my favorite tips for being both a fabulous host and guest this holiday season! I hope you find these helpful and be sure to share any other tips and tricks you may have of your own in the comments below!
Wishing you a beautiful, peaceful and fun holiday season with your family and friends!
Holiday Planning Tips For Hosts
Look at lighting.
Beautiful lighting can create a sense of warmth, connectedness, and flow. Adorn your home with candles, soften those overhead lights, and make it cozy!
Think about who’s coming, and what would make them most comfortable.
Would your guests get squeamish if you asked them to take turns saying what they’re grateful for? Then don’t do it! Tailor your plans for your guests’ comfort: from the food to the activities to the seating arrangements.
Be a peaceful leader.
As the host, your presence truly ripples out to everyone there. If you’re stressed about the turkey or anxious about Uncle Jack, your guests will pick up on this, and be stressed, too. However, if you’re calm (and not just pretending to be calm!), everyone else will relax. Plan for everything to be ready and settled 20-30 minutes before your guests arrive, so you can put up your feet, read a magazine, and enjoy the calm.
Ask for and receive support.
(Disclosure- this is a struggle for me) Get creative with this! Can you have someone come clean your house the day before or after? Could you book a massage the day before? What about cooking the turkey in the morning, then watching a movie before everyone arrives? Accept support from others before, during, and after the event. (Often, tension as a host comes from a reluctance to receive support, believing we have to “do it all” ourselves. This is complete bullshit! When you ask for help (or receive it graciously when it’s offered), you’ll invite others to take care of themselves, too … which leads to more presence and peace … and that’s where the real magic of a gathering begins!
Shift your furniture to facilitate connection.
Create little areas for different-sized conversations. That lone chair you read in? Pull up a companion for it, so two people can have an intimate conversation. Create larger and smaller arrangements so different sized groupings of people can talk easily.
Adorn your home with intentions.
Every time I light a candle, I say a little intention (for joy, ease, love, etc). So when my guests arrive and there are lots of candles in my home, they’re actually walking into a meadow of meaning! This way, even if my guests aren’t the kind of people who’d love sharing appreciations or setting intentions out loud, I’ve already enjoyed this ritual, in my own way. I also suggest smudging your home beforehand too. Start at the front door of the home and light your smudge stick. Then, begin to move around the home. Move mindfully and with care, walking clockwise around the entire perimeter of the home. Be sure to allow the smoke to drift into even the hidden spaces, like inside closets, basements and dark corners. When you arrive back at the front door, chant your final mantra or prayer. Visualize the entire home is filled with bright white sunlight. Then speak your intention one last time to close the smudging ceremony.
Play soft music.
I think of music as the thread that weaves an event together. We want it to be soft enough so it doesn’t steal the show, but pleasant enough to set a beautiful mood.
Make time for your favorite parts.
For the reasons I mentioned above, you can imagine that Vince (my husband) used to hate it when I hostessed parties. I ran around like a crazy person, attending to all the details — and it wasn’t fun for anyone. When I finally realized that in order to create an enjoyable experience for my guests, I needed to enjoy myself too, everything changed! For me, this meant identifying my favorite parts of hostessing, and making time for them. Back then, I would spend so much time cooking (which I didn’t love), that I’d run out of time to do my favorite: make things beautiful! Now, I’ve learned to get support for the cooking, so I can spend more time doing what I do best and love: creating a beautiful environment for the gathering. Take a moment to identify what you love most about hosting, and find creative ways to make more time for it.
Holiday Planning Tips For Guests
Even if you aren’t the host, you can show up as a leader: model presence, love, and calm for everyone around you. You’ll have a better time — and so will they! Take a few minutes before you leave the house to breathe, relax, and set the intentions to have a wonderful time.
Calmly offer to help your host, in small, creative ways — like setting the table, pouring drinks, or cleaning up. Be sensitive to the fact that your host may not want to receive help, though; if taking care of everything is a source of pride for them, don’t deprive them of it.
Be responsible for your own comfort.
If you need a break, take one. If you get cold, put on a sweater. If you’re allergic to nuts, make sure you don’t eat any. If you feel more comfortable wearing a mask, wear it. If you feel more comfortable and free without a mask, then don't. It sounds simple, but taking responsibility for your own needs is actually one of the most helpful things you can do. Strive to care for yourself gracefully — and you just might inspire others to do the same. This will help everyone have a better time (including the host!).
Things probably won’t go exactly as you imagined. Go with the flow: embrace that new tradition, try that new recipe, have a talk with that new friend.
Hosting a big gathering takes a ton of work, so be sure to thank your host. Share specific things you enjoyed and appreciated. Let them know that you know how much work they put into things, and how grateful you are.
Whether you’re the host or the guest this holiday season (or staying solo!), take a few moments to set intentions for yourself, get grounded, and truly arrive.
Then let the magic and merriment begin!
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Author, Candance Toscano
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